A tribute to an old friend, (part 1)

by madamsbob

As I read D’s narratives from fifth grade, I was pulled back to that brisk May morning when I set out for my middle school orientation. I wore a pleated skirt and a dress shirt which was the standard uniform in my old school. My father and I were expected at the guidance counselor’s office to discuss my academic schedule and arrangements. The car ride to the school was nerve-wracking to say the least. A wave of nausea and a string of questions jolted me at each traffic light. Will I make new friends? How are the students here? What if I get lost? What if the teachers hate me?

Since I had already finished my seventh grade, my counselor had suggested that I attend classes with my future classmates for a month till the school officially ended. My father and I pulled into the parking lot. As I got out of the car, I noticed that there was a stain on one of my black shoes. I got out a napkin and began scrubbing it clean. It was futile. This made me even more anxious. My father motioned me to hurry up and we entered the main door. I looked down at my shoes as we walked up the dark blue carpeted corridor. What if the counselor tells me to go home because I had a stain on my shoe? I looked at my father. What would he say then? I bit my lip as I felt beads of sweat trickling down my temples.

A short blond woman in a pale green dress greeted us. My father and I were told to have a seat at the counselor’s office. As we waited for him, I immediately took out my napkin and began cleaning the top of my shoe. I was almost done.

“B?” My father called me after a few minutes. “Cut it out!” Apparently the scuffing and scrubbing of my shoe’s exterior was taking a toll on his patience. I threw the napkin away and sat back down.

The counselor walked in a short while afterward and apologized for the wait. He asked me what my name was. I answered. He smiled and shook his head. He then asked me to repeat it again.

“Slowly,” he added.

I looked at him strangely. Then, I repeated my name. He muttered it under his breath a couple of times.

“That’s a very interesting name,” he then said. “Do you know what it means?”

I nodded. I told him. I instantly opened up to him. He was cordial and we talked about my former school, the classes that I had taken and the sports that I was involved in.

“You will have a great time here,” the counselor then told me. “You will make new friends and you could ease into your eighth grade.”

I smiled. The stain on the shoe was long forgotten and I was ready to embark on a new adventure in this school. He told me to be here early tomorrow morning and that he was going to walk me to my first class. I felt at home at the thought of starting over in my new school.

Sadly, this was not the case.

~*~

I was excited the next morning. I wore a black skirt and a blue polo. I paired it with a pair of knee length socks and black shoes. I could not wait to get to school. My mother packed my lunch and my father dropped me off at the entrance.

As promised, my counselor was at the main entrance ready to welcome me on my first day.

“Good Morning, Mr. M,” I said.

“Good Morning to you, B,” he chimed in. “Ready for your first day of school?”

“I think so,” I replied as I walked with him to my first class. The students were piling in from all the school entrances. I watched as they trudged up and down the hallways. There were shouts, yells, laughs and even screams as the students prepared for their first class. The counselor told a couple of students to walk not run and to quiet down, but they resumed their original state as we walked past them. They wore tight jeans and mini skirts, sleeveless shirts and ludicrous t-shirts. Some people even wore sneakers. Others with long hair had let it loose. These, among other things, were strictly forbidden in my old school. We were enforced to wear uniforms with socks and belted shoes. Sneakers were not allowed. Jeans, shorts, mini skirts and sleeveless shirts were not allowed. Girls with short hair were required to wear a band and girls with long hair were required a barrette. I noticed a few of them stop and nudge their friends. I heard a few giggle when I turned around to see them. This was not what I was accustomed to.

I was shocked.

My counselor stopped at a classroom. There were a group of students talking outside the classroom waiting for the first bell. They immediately stopped what they were doing and looked at us. One of them chirped, “Mrs. U is not in yet.”

My guidance counselor turned to her and said, “Thanks Julie.”

He then told me that this was my homeroom. This is where I was supposed to come every morning. He informed that my teacher will update me on everything I needed to know for the rest of the day. He asked me whether I wished for him to stay till my teacher came.

I shook my head. He patted my back and wished me luck.

I took a deep breath. Julie and her friends were already whispering in front of me. One of her friends took a step towards me and asked me what my name was. She then winced and asked me to repeat it again. She repeated after me. Then, she ran to back to Julie and said, rather loudly, “Her name is B…sounds like a fish.” The girls started laughing. Julie laughed the loudest. Were they not aware that they were within my earshot?

Julie was next.

She stood in front of me and said, “Hi B. I’m Julie.”

“Nice to meet you, Julie,” I replied. I was not feeling all too enthusiastic to meet her.

She smiled.

“I like your outfit,” she said. She didn’t.

“I like yours too,” I said. I didn’t.

As Julie walked back to her friends and giggled some more, I couldn’t help but wish the teacher got here.

“Hello B,” a voice said behind me. I turned around to see a tall brown haired woman beaming at me. “I’m Mrs. U, your homeroom teacher. Why don’t you come on in and we’ll talk about your schedule.”

With that she snatched me away from Julie and her friends. She gave me my schedule along with the teacher names, my locker number and a map of the school. I heaved a sigh of relief. I began circling out the classes on the map so it would be easier for me.

The first bell rang and the people who had assembled outside poured in the class. From the corner of my eye, I saw Julie and her friends come in and sit together. Mrs. U called me to the front of the class and introduced me as everyone settled in.

I may have been a new student to the class, but I was not blind. I was neither immune to their odd expressions nor to their chuckles. I could see them look me up and down as I stood. Then, Mrs. U did something surprising.

“Julie,” she said. “It looks to me like you and B have many classes together. Why don’t you show her around for today?”

I saw her friends roll their eyes. Julie, unable to deny in front of the class, agreed.

“Thank you,” I said.

She shrugged.

“You will have a wonderful time here,” Mrs. U said as I sat back down.

Julie warmed up to the idea of tagging along with me for the rest of the day. She even offered to do the same the next day if need be. Over the next few days, I started talking to and spending time with Julie and her friends. Though they were reluctant on making a new addition to their lunch table, they were cordial. Their friendly acts seemed a little forced. And I always tried to avoid their merciless questions and observations throughout the day.

“Do you always dress like that? Isn’t it a little too hot to be wearing pants? You sort of have an accent. Where did you say you were from again? Your name sounds funny.”

Different. Different. DIFFERENT. The more I tried to fit in, the more judgmental my peers got. This took a toll on my social skills. I grew distant and quiet. Too quiet. Days and classes were spent listening, nodding and occasionally smiling. I packed up my pleated skirts, Oxford shirts and chino pants. My “updated” wardrobe now contained bland jeans and tops. To be honest, I felt more restricted and completely uncomfortable. I was ashamed at what I had to do to fit in this school. But, I was deemed an outcast by my peers and I felt I could never change that.

Who knew that an English class the next day would change all of that?

(to be continued…)

3 Comments to “A tribute to an old friend, (part 1)”

  1. Urgh, I never liked those snide, giggly girls. They weren’t trying to fool anyone, they wanted us to see them laughing.

    A very moving story, can’t wait for the next part!

  2. I think so, too.
    It brings back a ton of memories. I’m riveted & can’t wait for your next installment.

  3. This takes me back to my own school days. I hated girls like that in my school, it was their mission to make everybody else feel like dirt. They loved adding in outcasts to their group once in a while to make proper fools of them later. It was disgusting. In a lot of schools, these girls seem really good at keeping it out of he teachers’ visions, but in some schools (and this appears to be a growing problem) these days staff just ignore it.

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